Finland and Sweden: Turkey blocks the start of NATO accession talks

Status: 05/18/2022 3:59 p.m.

Turkey is apparently serious and, according to several media, is blocking the start of NATO accession talks, which should allow the accession of Finland and Sweden. Turkey only wants to accept their membership under certain conditions.

Only hours after Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, the decision had to be taken to start the necessary membership process. However, as several media unanimously report, Turkey thwarted this plan and blocked the decision.

Turkey had already threatened to veto the accession of the two countries. For Sweden and Finland to be part of the military alliance, all members must agree to join.

Turkey makes demands

But Turkey had cited its own security concerns and made demands of the two potential candidates for membership. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Finland and Sweden of supporting the banned Kurdish workers’ party PKK and the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. Turkey classifies both as “terrorists”.

In addition, the Turkish government is pushing for Sweden and Finland to extradite alleged supporters of Islamic preacher Fetullah Gülen, who Turkey suspects are in both countries. Turkey blames Gülen for the 2016 coup attempt.

In a speech to his ruling Islamo-conservative AKP party in Ankara, Erdogan reiterated his position. The Turkish head of state stressed that the enlargement of NATO to the two members goes hand in hand with the respect shown to Turkey for its sensitivities. He accused Sweden and Finland of wanting to continue supporting “terrorist organisations” in the future. He again accused Sweden of refusing to extradite “terrorists” and pointed out:

NATO is a security association, a security organization. In this regard, we cannot say yes to making this security body dangerous.

Sweden and Finland would not respond to Turkey’s concerns, but at the same time would demand support for NATO membership. “It’s an understatement, it’s a contradiction,” Erdogan said.

Stoltenberg aims for quick admission

NATO had repeatedly promised Sweden and Finland that they would join them as soon as possible. A spokesman for the alliance declined to comment on the current status of talks in the NATO Council. He only stressed that General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg was determined to find a quick solution for Finland and Sweden. “Both countries are our closest partners and NATO membership would enhance Euro-Atlantic security,” he said.

On Tuesday, Finland’s parliament agreed to apply for NATO membership, after Sweden’s parliament previously voted in favor. The two countries had submitted their candidacies to NATO in the morning.

During a visit to Italy, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin reaffirmed her hope for rapid admission. “NATO membership will improve Finland’s security and at the same time strengthen the alliance,” she stressed in Rome. Joint admission with Sweden will lead to more security and stability in the Baltic States and throughout Northern Europe.

The government agrees to join

The federal government has already accepted Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO. The federal cabinet approved the signing of protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty on the admission of the two states.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz had already assured the two potential new members of NATO on Tuesday that Germany would work to have their applications for membership ratified quickly. Scholz stressed again in the morning that the Federal Republic already feels obliged to protect itself, even if Sweden and Finland are not yet officially part of the defense alliance.

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressly welcomed Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to join NATO on Twitter. The Greens politician had previously referred to a “historic moment” in a “highly dramatic situation” and, like Chancellor Scholz, had urged the two countries to join as soon as possible.

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